So it’s happened. The UK has announced schools are closing and millions of parents across the country are faced with the unenviable challenge of finding ways to entertain and educate their children at home. As legal professionals, keeping up with your job means mastering the fine details of remote legal services. With grandparents, holiday clubs, creches and other resources out of bounds, we asked the working parents on the team at Obelisk for their tips for managing the extended school break.
Children under 11
Dana Denis-Smith – CEO and Mother of Alma-Constance, nine
I am pretty used to remote working but this time is different, as school is happening at home at the moment as well (our school closed already). Setting up a routine reminded me of my early days with Alma-Constance when I was juggling Obelisk and a newborn but I always look at those days with much affection and find that focusing on positive thoughts and memories works wonders. It helps that the school has suggested that all kids stick to the daily school routine even at home (the children have to make the daily Zoom meeting or it counts as an absence). Also kids need the outdoors and I am trying to limit screen time precisely because so much more homework is becoming digital with the remote schooling, so having her run, cycle and just be in the garden for however little every day is important.
Laura Vosper – Head of Experience and Mother of Marion, five
Get active! Young children need to burn off their energy so starting the day with a wild rumpus will help them to settle down later to online lessons, crafts or (dare I say it) a bit of TV. If you are lucky enough to have a garden, then ask them to help with weeding or hanging up washing, or dig out a ball or some bubbles. If you haven’t got a garden then find your favourite playlist or musical (it’s “Matilda” in our house) and start the day with a dance or a sing-along. When it’s time to quieten things down, make sure you have some audio books from their favourite author on hand to help them relax.
Debbie Tembo – Client Relationship Director and Mother of two girls
For studies, Twinkl is an absolutely first-class resource for worksheets, puzzles, colouring sheets and other materials. There is a mixture of free and paid-for content, and it is all arranged by stages in the National Curriculum, so you can easily identify what’s likely to be suitable for your child. There are also resources for parents, so if you need help explaining how to do something, you’re not on your own. They have even put together special packs to help during the virus outbreak.
When the weather’s not great, and since we don’t want to bring on the common cold intentionally, we plug in Just Dance, which is a super fun and silly way to get active as a family – you follow the dance prompts on screen and get moving. Connection is so important at this time and spending time in this way for just 15 minutes is also a good way to take a break from your screen!
Pre-Teens & Teenagers
Mark Humphries – Chairman and Father of two teenage boys
As we’re being encouraged to avoid socialising and many activities are being cancelled, I think it’s important to remember to get outside and feel connected with nature, which benefits our physical and mental health. At this time of year, we’re seeing Spring beginning to arrive so if you can, get out into the countryside or green space for a walk as a family. Whilst it’s easier to encourage this with younger children, you might have to make it a bit more enticing when they’re older, so for something a bit different for your teenagers, suggest a night-time walk and a spot of stargazing. And if you want to escape for a bit but can’t leave the house, dip into box-sets of nature programmes such as Planet Earth or Blue Planet.
Will Stephens – COO and Father of two teenagers
With teenagers, it’s important to find ways for them to feel involved in family life. Share out some of the responsibilities of managing this time; so for example you might decide as a family to get fitter during this period and each day have one person in the family decide on what exercise everyone will do, one person deciding on meals, one person coming up with entertainment ideas etc. Older members of the family could start to feel isolated as we are now being encouraged to cut back on visits, so suggest that your teenagers ask for classic music and film recommendations that they can discuss with them, make them scrapbooks or even teach them how to use some of the new technologies we have to connect, like email, WhatsApp or FaceTime.
Laure Latham – Marketing & CSR Manager and Mother of two teenage girls, 14 and 16
Give them space and trust them to do the right thing. Teenagers are not early birds and even if they look like mini adults, they still need our help as parents. To keep a structure to their week and if they are home-schooled (our school closed early), try to stick to a school routine during weekdays as much as possible. My teenage daughters are completely independent and their school uses Google tools to teach them remotely. They have a fully integrated Google calendar with Google meets for real-time teaching videoconferences, Google Drive folders for each student to deliver homework and get feedback, as well as two other online platforms to access educational material. They also have a WhatsApp group for students only where they can communicate at peer level. WhatsApp student groups have been around forever but the rest is new as of mid-March 2020. It’s quite amazing what the school put together over the course of a weekend! Of course, it’s good to take your teenager out for a walk or just get outside because screen addiction is a very real risk (and it messes up their sleep routine).
We also asked some of the kids what they would suggest!!
Marion (Aged five)
“Be like a teacher and help us with our learning, so that we don’t get bored!”
Alma-Constance (Aged nine)
“It’s important to give us some space during the day so that we have some time to do our own activities.”
And here are a few extra resources that you might find useful
BBC Bitesize (multiple subjects)
Busuu (languages)Or for something a little bit different, why not tour the world from your living room with this edit of top museums you can visit by video:
New gamesThis Guardian review covers ideas for all ages.
This Australian blog, Kidspot, has some great card games and how to play them.
How to explain coronavirus to your child(ren)Doctors Chris & Xand from Operation Ouch explain the virus to primary school children.
Guidance here for all ages from Psychology Today.
(Links are provided for reference only and don’t constitute an endorsement, nor do we have any affiliation with or take any payment from associated companies and publishers.)